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tv   Inside Washington  PBS  May 29, 2010 1:30am-2:00am EDT

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>> production assistance for "inside washington" was provided by allbritton communications and "politico," reporting on the legislative, executive, and political arena. >> those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts. >> this week on "inside washington," more oil spill blues. who is in charge? >> you have got to get down here and take control of this, but somebody in charge, and get this moving. we are about to die down here. >> is this about to become barack obama's katrina? >> we will lose more coastline from this could best be than from all four hurricanes -- katrina, rita, gustav and ike.
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>> what is the future of offshore oil exploration? >> we essentially will not allow any more deepwater drilling until we can ensure that we are doing it in the safest way possible. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> what a mess. the president says that the responses to the oil spill is dysfunctional. the president took great pains to deny that at a news conference. but the headline in "usa today" asked if this is becoming obama's retreat. evan, is this unfair?
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>> yes. he has gotten into trouble because he has tried to be cool and measured and not overreact to things. but now he is being punished for it because he is not james carville. this is the bp show on the federal government has to let them do most of it. obama may ultimately get the blame, but i don't think it is fair. >> nina? >> an oil spill of this magnitude, where the perpetrators, as it were, i cannot figure out how to stop it -- i am sure there are things that could have been done better by the federal government and bp, but it is not the administration's "fuld." it is not katrina. but he is going to pay for it nonetheless. >> charles, what do you think? >> well, if the bp succeeds in plug the leak, obama will escape politically if it does not, it will become his katrina politically.
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it will be unfair, just as the devastation of the trend that was used against to -- devastation of the train that was for george bush. -- the devastation of katrina was for george bush. it will be an unfair assignment of blame. >> mark? >> the american national crisis rises suddenly. americans instinctively looked to the president did great crises cannot make great presidents. james buchanan is a great -- great crises in do not make great president did s. james buchanan is a great example of this. americans expect the president to do things, to reflect, to act
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boldly and successfully. it is unsuccessful, he will pay the political price. >> but it is a completely unrealistic expectations. it is happening at a mile down, has never happened before in history. the only people who know what it what are the experts at the oil committee. the federal government has a lot of strength, can run wars, but it does not have the capacity to plug a leak. in what sense is it a measure of leadership if the leak is plugged or not? >> in this sense -- americans don't expect the president of federal government to build bridges did they expect him to make sure that the bridges that are built are safe and secure and work. the same with airplanes. we don't expect them to fly airplanes. what air traffic control and safety to be the norm rather than the exception -- we want to air traffic control and safety to be the norm rather than the exception. >> let's hear from a couple of
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republicans on this. house minority leader john boehner says that there is no question that bp and its suppliers at a major part of this, but also, "we have a failure of the it federal government to meet its responsibilities." >> let's remember, the president under the law has a responsibility to act. it is also clear that the president has failed in his obligation to the american people to uphold the law and act . >> haley barbour, the governor of mississippi, is more forgiving. >> i will not criticize the government when they are dealing with something of literally unprecedented, like doing brain surgery on miles deep under the gulf of mexico. >> what about the news conference? did he seem defensive to you? >> not really. haley barbour a week ago at said
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that there is no oil, we are overreacting. give me a break here. everybody on the political side is trying to take full advantage. this not a war. nobody has "at let us." there is nobody can attack back -- in afghanistan, for example, or the civil war, for that matter. this is a natural disaster. we are against mother nature. this is very different. >> politics, like television news, has a lot of show business in it. they have admiral thad allen. but suppose he went down there and rolled up his sleeve and talked to bobby jindal -- >> it is not his style. his style is no drama obama. i like that. don't overreact to cable tv, don't overreact to james carville waving his arms. but having said that, he is
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being punished for it. maybe we live in such a dramatic age that presidents sort of have to be -- i felt sorry for him out there. i thought he did just about everything he could do. it is an impossible situation. >> how does the president's communications people allowed him to walk into a news conference without knowing whether elizabeth birnbaum, director of the mineral management service, was fired or resign? how does that happen? >> i think the president chose not to address the question. as far as the 24-hour cable, the real story on this was the demand by democrats in congress that bp's camera of this bill be available. it is available 24 hours a day. you cannot turn on the television without being reminded that this disaster is continuing. secondly, nothing can be done or
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has been done by either bp or the federal government about it. there is a sense of anger despair. that is really a problem. the president is by nature cooled, and it would be a natural for him to be james carville -- it would be a natural for him to be james carville. but there is a level of at the that people are looking for. -- there is a level of empathy that people are looking for. >> that is true, although i'd like to call this, that empathy is a problem for him. >> dale collins in "the new york times -- gail collins in "the new york times" said it is to his credit that he did not go well and got into the ocean. -- go wild and jump into the ocean.
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>> i suppose people might like it if he went out there and his lip trembled like clinton. >> he has made a few unforced errors. the press conference was appalling. the message was, and he said it over and over again, "i am in charge here, but of course, i am helpless." it was an absurd message. why did you go out there and seize control of this when you know is out of your hands? the only explanation is that maybe he made a calculation. the experts were saying that there was a two out of three chance that the top kill maneuver would work. maybe thought, i will go out there and take until and if it works, i am a hero, if it does not, i am getting back anyway. >> bp was responsible for this horrific disaster and we will hold them accountable on behalf of the united states and the communities victimized by this tragedy. we will demand that they pay
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every dime they owe for the damage they have done, and the painful losses they have caused. >> he added that "bp is operating at our direction." has bp been telling the truth about what is going on down there >? >> obama said they hadn't. >> how many gallons a day? >> initially they did hide the ball. they be assured them that this would be ok. since then, as steven pearlstein road on friday, bp has been pretty upfront. they have taken responsibility for this -- >> better than exxon valdez and massey energy -- >> bp could go under. this is way bigger than the exxon valdez. i talked to lawyers involved in
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that who said they don't know how they can survive. >> $180 billion company, a $15 billion profit. those are pockets that are not shallow. >> mark talked about airline safety, i want to go back to deregulation. the federal government watches airline safety pretty closely. there are microorganisms here, shrimp and oysters and protein for human beings. this is a massive problem. what we take as good care of planet earth as we do of airliners? >> because we need oil. we have all whole economy that runs on oil and we will need it for two decades or more. and because we have ruled out the entire atlantic coast and the pacific coast and the arctic as a place where you can get oil in shallow water, less
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dangerously. we would like to be on land. instead, if you look at, the density of rigs in the gulf of mexico, since the gulf for historical reasons is open, it has been incredibly exploited for oil, and that is why we have to go deep. all the shalit stuff has been done -- all the shallow stuff has been done but this is unprecedented. it is all truck-deep -- it is ultra-deep. other countries have deep drilling because the shalit stuff is used up. but we have ruled out entire areas that can be used cheaper. brazil? guinea? in nigeria? give me a break.
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>> nigeria has had a massive oil spills on the coast. the reason there is a ban on drilling in the pacific off california is went date at shallow drilling -- when they had a shallow drilling, a humongous oil spill -- >> nothing of this scale. >> you asked a fundamental question -- is the purpose of the federal government to guarantee prosperity for the private sector or public safety? the argument has been hands off, let these companies do what they know they are doing. whether it is a financial regulation or will drilling -- oil chilly, i think this is a strong case -- oil drilling, i think this is a strong case for a relentless, efficient federal government setting the standards. >> the more high-tech we get a more sophisticated everything gets, the harder it is for government regulators or
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bureaucrats to even understand it. we count on the airline is essentially to regulate themselves. it is certainly true in the oil industry. even wall street could not understand what wall street was doing. there is a level of complexity that defeats -- >> the north sea drillers have far tougher standards than we do in the gulf. that is the first step. >> the president explained that we have a 30-limit on evaluating whether or not you control, eu end of having to wait because you cannot in 30 days. >> given all that, what about the future of offshore drilling? >> first, we will suspend the plan exploration of two locations off the coast of alaska. second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the gulf of mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of virginia. third, we will continue the
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existing moratorium and suspended the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater well for six months. >> what is the future of a drill bit the drill -- carroll, baby, drill? >> three mile island. we will go decades before we allowed deep sea drilling again. this will have the same impact on the psychology of the country and the politics. it is going to be a problem, because we are thirsty for oil, is we will be importing huge amounts from overseas. >> americans will keep it guzzling gas and no one will cut back -- >> wouldn't it be good if this made us wake up and do the carbon tax and get real about the problems? i don't think this is going -- >> we had a shot at during the carter administration, during the first so-called energy crisis. >> great crises in do not make
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great men. ordinary men responding to extraordinary circumstances make great men. that is what this is before the president. if this is not a golden opportunity for him, whether it is the carbon tax or the equivalent of the man on the moon, to come up with an electric vehicle, this is -- look, we are fighting two wars, spending $1 billion a day and sending it to countries that are not friendly to the united states and its national interests. if that is not enough to get a national sense of personal sacrifice for energy independence, autonomy, whatever, i don't know what is. that is why this is the opportunity for him. >> it is the opportunity, and it is very difficult. i have offered in charge of giving away the experimental money, and -- i have a friend who is in charge of giving way experimental money, and there is a lot of it, and it is like
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fighting through cobwebs to get it approved. everybody objects for one reason or another to everyone of these little experimental projects. somebody has to come through crashing through congress and say that we're not only behind economically, behind the chinese on solar panels and energy, but we need to do this for our national security, our own economic -- >> what about asking the american people to sacrifice? turn up the thermostat 3 degrees in the summertime? >> i have been advocating the gasoline tax of up a dollar or more for 35 years. you put a tax on gasoline if you want to fund a decrease in the payroll tax as a way to get it back in people's pocket in the middle of the recession, but we will have to curtail our consumption. but the assumption that there is a breakthrough on electric vehicles that are just waiting
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out there and all it takes is a little bit of money is ridiculous. the reason the manhattan project work is scientists were on the threshold and they understood had to do -- how to do the bomb but needed a lot of money to construct it and put it together give me the idea that that is going to free us from oil or gas or coal. it does not exist. >> to paraphrase a former governor sarah palin, how is that deregulation thing going for you? >> we want them to get this done as quickly as possible. >> that is a louisiana gov. bobby jindal, who once the federal government to fend off the oil. -- who wants the federal government to fend off the oil. critics respond that in his response to the president's address last year, he said, " the strike is not in the federal government company -- the strike is not in the federal government, is in the hearts of the american people."
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>> oh, come on, gordon. in an emergency, the war, pearl harbor, 9/11, the government steps in. that is an unfair argument. >> if you have been watching this deep oil thing, as critics of the bp would say, maybe we would not be in the mess we are in now. isn't there a certain inconsistency here? >> mms -- most people did not even know what that was. mineral management service, according to its own inspector general, is kind of joke, for a long time, due to the coziness and corruption. inevitably, with regulated industries, people get too close to people doing the regulating. >> i will probably get charles to be -- have a fit, but if you have eight years of total deregulation, and the interior department -- >> of course, how could i not
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have figured it out? >> the interior department offices were populated by former officials from mining, oil, coal, and now they are reaping some of that, shouldn't the obama administration have come in and fixed that? it is very hard to do that, to move the ship that quickly. >> the problem is that the eight brought in a nice harvard law school lady and she was -- they brought in a nice harvard law school 80 and she was clueless. >> she is a very talented person with a good record of public service. bureaucrat -- it is disparaging and demeaning. you talk about public employees performing public business. mineral management service is a disaster, a conceptual disaster. at the same agency licenses,
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monitors, and collects its revenues come at its existence, from the industry. it is going to be chummy, by definition is. -- by definition it is. every democrat running every generation has concluded that warning and an admonition about the mineral management service, the house to be cleaned out. but when public service is to mean and denigrated, as has been, and not regarded as an important calling, you will get the result. >> there is a statute of limitations on how long you can say i am responsible. i would say 15 months of doing nothing to cure the mms puts it on your watch. i know all the ills of the world are bush's fault, but i would not quite pin this one on him. >> this is the first time
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i've ever heard administration blamed the previous administration. >> you know who never did it? george washington. >> we learned this week that the house will vote on the defense department repealing the ban on gays in the military, the 1993 don't ask, don't tell a likably. -- don't ask, don't tell law. what do you think? >> i am in favor of repeal, but the military will have a report that will come out on the first of december and afterwards we will work it out and do it over time but the problem is that it looks like the administration is trying to rush this ahead of the election, thinking that it has to pass this now. it has a large majority. a lot of people in the military,
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including the service chiefs, are rather upset about this. kaine wrote a letter to them. they thought they would wait until december 1 and 2 after the report -- and do it after the report. that is why it is problematic. >> but i don't think it is hugely consequential in the long run. nancy pelosi, as i understand, basically said that we have to get this done now. one of the reasons for that was not just because they could, but also because they have the election coming up. if you have gay rights organizations and gay people working for you and giving you money, it helps a lot. i understand that military people might want to take longer, might want to drag their feet. but the younger generation of americans, they don't care about this, and there are lots of gay people in the military who are
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dying for this country, and we should just not give up. >> how was the climate change on this? >> in the 17 years since colin powell and sam nunn and other very popular people crafted the don't ask, don't tell as a compromise, there is a sea change in public opinion. sometimes for out of five people believed it ought to be repealed. if it is forthcoming, whether it is now or in the next year or whenever it does happen, i look forward to the rotc returning to harvard. at harbor for the past 41 years, they have been unable to enroll in rotc on campus. once that is removed, i will look forward to a lot of harvard students investing in the marine corps and army and serving our country -- and listing in the marine corps and army and serving our country. >> we have a harvard graduate
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here. >> don't hold your breath. i'm totally in agreement that rtc should the at harbor, but don't expect massive investment. -- wjlshould be at harvard, but don't expect massive investment -- enlistment. >> it is all political, but the fact that there is a don't ask, don't tell policy is political . >> the israeli army, the most active these days, as had it open for a long time appoi. it could have women in its army and the late 1940's. but i do think there was this kind of understanding with the military, and this is a purely political step. nina is right, this is about gay activists who are very unhappy with the administration, and by doing this now, it will activate
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them. the administration is looking at a debacle in november and it wants to activate its base and these people are part of the the base. >> fundraisers have been heckled -- people at fund-raisers have been heckled on this issue. >> we will see you next week. for a transcript of this broadcast, log on to insidewashington.tv.
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